Encouraging a sense of responsibility in children is important, but it can be hard to find ways to make it happen. One of the best ways to start is by assigning household chores.
Unfortunately, it’s not always clear where or how to start. But what’s appropriate for a 3-year-old? A 10-year-old? Or even when they become teenagers?
Fortunately, there are fun and creative ways to encourage your children to complete age-appropriate chores. The best part? Setting the expectation and encouraging children to complete chores sets them up for a lifetime of success.
Children who are taught how and why chores are necessary parts of life see increases in everything from work ethic and responsibility to self-esteem. Young children and toddlers who are taught to make their beds and put away their toys grow into responsible teenage drivers who properly secure a car seat for their baby brother or sister after they’ve received their driver’s license.
And the growth doesn’t stop there. These teenagers continue to grow with a sense of responsibility and a desire to work hard. They work hard in other areas, in school, careers, and even seeking out car seat advice. And it can all start with age-appropriate, consistent chores around the house.
Benefits of Chores
As parents, we know that chores are a part of life. Not only do they help keep a home functioning and clean, but they also encourage so much growth and development in even our youngest children.
It can be hard to envision those larger benefits, however, when we fight resistance and complaints. So it’s important that we understand just how big of an impact these chores can and will have on our children later in life.
Mental and Physical Development
The biggest benefit of children of all ages doing chores is the sense of responsibility. Study after study has shown that children who consistently do household chores develop a deeper sense of responsibility.
Chores can also encourage a higher level of self-esteem and coping skills. When children complete chores they begin to experience and understand delayed gratification and, in turn, how to handle frustration.
One study goes so far as to say childhood chores are one of the best predictors of success later in life. Children who participated in the household chores when they were young see higher levels of success in their early and mid-20s across the board.
In addition to mental development, children can learn and Improve their motor skills. Most household chores require movement, both fine and gross. Children can develop these skills in very real-life, hands-on situations. This can help them stay physically active.
Chores also encourage children to develop important and often invaluable life skills. Chores provide children the opportunity to give back and serve the important people in their lives. The more they complete these chores and feel that sense of service and accomplishment, the more likely they are to continue that cycle and expand it to other members of society.
It’s also a great opportunity to teach time management skills. As children grow, they begin to understand that there is only so much time in a day. When they have responsibilities like chores to complete every day, they begin to see the importance of time management.
Teamwork is another great skill learned while completing chores. Most households divide the chores among their members to make sure all tasks can be completed and no one is left to do all the work. Sharing the load to accomplish one goal is simply teamwork.
Service, time management, and teamwork are all vitally important skills for adult members of society. These skills help develop children into well-rounded and independent individuals.
Chores by Age
So we know chores are important for many different reasons. The question still remains: What chores are best introduced or expected at which age?
As a general rule, children are ready to attempt the same group of chores or responsibilities at roughly the same age. Below is a list of age-appropriate chores for five different age groups. These lists are not exhaustive or written in stone. The ability of each child should be considered on an individual basis.
Toddler (2-3 years old)
The early days of the toddler stage are a great time to implement chores. Developmentally, they are able to accomplish simple tasks and follow direct instructions, but they will still need supervision and encouragement. Here are some tasks:
- Clean up and put away toys
- Feed the family pet
- Put dirty clothes in the hamper
- Dust or wipe down the furniture, baseboards, etc.
- Help make the beds
- Map or sweep small areas of the floor
Preschooler (4-5 years old)
As a child grows into the preschool years, they may be ready to graduate to a few more complex chores with some supervision. Remember that the following chores are appropriate as well as the chores from the previous age group.
- Make bed alone and without supervision
- Help set the table
- Clear the table
- Pull weeds
- Water the plants and/or flowers
- Vacuum (preferably hand-vacuum) crumbs or small messes
- Put away clean utensils
- Sort laundry before washing
- Match clean socks
Car Seat Safety
Preschool age is also a time of independence. Children are looking for ways to assert their independence and be their own person. This can cause issues with car seat safety.
Some children are anxious to get out of a baby car seat and act more like their older siblings and parents. It’s important, however, that children remain in the age- and size-appropriate car seat as required by law.
If you are considering making a transition to a new car seat arrangement, please research both the safety and legal regulations in your area.
Elementary Age (6-9 years old)
Elementary-age children are ready to take on more responsibility and need much less supervision. This does mean, however, that they may start to push back on the idea of chores. Any rebellion against expected chores is completely natural and should be met with patience.
- Sweep the floors
- Help make lunches for school
- Rake leaves in the yard
- Put away groceries
- Load and empty the dishwasher
- Help prepare and cook dinner
- Make their own snacks and/or breakfast
- Put away their own laundry
- Take dog for a walk (use your own discretion)
- Wet map the floors
- Take out the trash
Middle Schoolers (10-13 years old)
During middle school years, children can be expected to complete household chores without reminders. They are continuing to grow in maturity and should be expected to complete their assigned chores without constant supervision or direction:
- Load and empty dishwasher without supervision or assistance
- Wash the family car
- Prepare meals without assistance
- Use both the washer and dryer
- Take trash to bins and bins to the curb
- Watch younger siblings with parents at home
High Schoolers (14+ years old)
High school age is the time to ensure your child can do everything you can do. This is the time to be preparing your child to leave the nest, whether to college or a place of their own. In addition to everything listed in the previous age groups, consider adding these chores to your child’s daily or weekly routine:
- Clean out the refrigerator
- Help deep clean the kitchen (appliances and cabinets)
- Clean the bathroom (toilet, sink, shower, floor)
- Babysit younger siblings independently
- Mow the lawn
- Care for family pets independently (taking them for walks or the right amount of exercise)
- Make more complex meals
- Accomplish shopping trips alone (following a list, staying on budget)
- Iron clothes
- Resew buttons on clothes
- Help parents with simple home or auto maintenance and windshield repair
How to Implement Chores
Once you’ve decided what chores each child will be responsible for, it’s important to create an environment that encourages them to attack those chores. The first step is role modeling. Show your child how to accomplish each task effectively. Explain the steps of the process and why you are completing each step.
This will help children understand not only how to do each chore, but why it’s so important to do them. When children feel more prepared they are more likely to engage in the process (and maybe even enjoy it).
The next step is encouragement. Even if your child is hesitant to join in the cleaning fun, encourage them to take part. You can make it a game for younger or more resistant children, but get them involved.
Make assigned chores clear. Display a chore chart, visually or written, so that everyone knows who is responsible for which chores. You can even include your child in the assigning process. Make it part of a family meeting or simply ask for each child’s input.
The job of being a mom doesn’t end with a list of chores. It involves so much more than simply telling each child what they are expected to do. We have to know how to implement these expectations so our children are set up for success.
The best piece of advice when it comes to children and chores is to make the chores fun and enjoyable. Yes, chores are work, but it’s work worth doing.
Laura Gunn writes and researches for the car insurance comparison site, CarInsurance.org. She is a mom to two young boys who do their chores, and she is passionate about helping children learn the importance of hard work and playing their part.